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Fact checked by Kirsten Yovino, CPT Brookbush InstituteFACT CHECKED
If your legs are the pillars of your body, then your glutes are the beams that keep your legs and torso upright and stable. Your core strength, balance, power when walking or running, and hip stabilization all rely on your glutes, so it is important not to neglect their training. Strong glutes are one of the most prominent signs of a strong athlete. And while squats are great for the glutes as they produce great eccentric contraction (contraction as the muscle lengthens), hip thrusts reign supreme for concentric contraction (contraction as the muscle shortens). In fact, hip thrusts are proven to be the ultimate concentric exercise for the glutes. Although the barbell is generally considered the most superior version of the hip thrust, the exercise can be highly effective with just a resistance band.
So, if you don't have access to a barbell or you simply want variety and extra volume during your workout to maximize glute development, the banded hip thrust is a fantastic option to employ into your training. This applies to people of ALL fitness levels.
For those who don't know exactly what a hip thrust is, let's start there...
A hip thrust, also referred to as a hip thruster, is a lower body exercise based on hip extension. In essence, it is a horizontal hip extension movement powered mainly by the glutes and hamstrings (the main muscles that act on hip extension, which is essentially pressing your hips forward).
To do a hip thrust, you lie the back of your shoulders on a bench, place your feet flat to the floor so your knees are at about a 90 degree angle. From there, you lower your butt towards the floor and then push your hips up (hip extension) until your thighs and torso make a straight line parallel with the floor.
Typically, people use a barbell for hip thrusts. However, various equipment can be used, such as dumbbells or resistance bands.
Furthermore, there are other variations of hip thrusters. Essentially, any movement that has the same biomechanics - pushing your hips forward against resistance - is a hip thrust. As such, you could do them from a vertical position if there is resistance (however, the only way to create that is with a resistance band or cable machine as free weights won't allow for that simply due to gravity).
It should also be noted that a glute bridge is not the same as a standard hip thrust because a glute bridge is done without the bench so your back is to the floor...but the biomechanics are pretty much the same, they just have a different range of motion (hip thrusts have a greater range of motion). Furthermore, it's easier to load a hip thrust with free weights. With a band, both glute bridges and hip thrusts can be loaded the same (and very easily).
All in all, hip thrusts are a fantastic exercise to build the glutes, but sadly it is under-utilized (especially by men). This study shows that hip thrusts create 2x the activation for the upper glutes than a barbell back squat. While technically a compound exercise, as there are many muscles involved, from your core to your hamstrings and quads, the glutes are the main driver of hip thrusts, which makes it as much of a glute isolation exercise as it gets. Plus you get the added benefit of be able to load heavy. So, if you want a strong, nice looking butt, this is arguably the best possible exercise. At least in terms of contraction tension.
By now, you know the answer, but let's just be clear...YES! You can do hip thrusts with resistance bands. All you have to do is loop each end of the band under your feet and then rest the band along the create of your hips.
We recommend that if you haven't done hip thrusts before, you start with just your bodyweight to get the form down. Then, you can start to use bands.
If you are able to maintain proper form with relative ease for 10 to 12 reps it's time to add resistance. If you are using bands, you can go up in band size.
Note: You should be pausing at the top of each rep and squeezing the heck out of your glutes. Hip thrusts are not a speed exercise. You should hold the top and move slow on the negative, but you can be explosive when pressing your hips up to full extension (never overextend, just bring your hips to neutral with full glute contraction).
There's only one kind of band to use to add resistance to hip thrusts and that's a 41" loop resistance band.
Here is a picture of what they look like:
It's important to use the proper equipment for the proper workout. Otherwise, you could potentially injure yourself if you are not careful. These 41-inch loop bands would be the most ideal for an exercise like Hip Thrusters.
When it comes to hip thrusts with bands, there are several ways you can go about doing it. Essentially, the main formula is a hip extension with maximum glute contraction.
With these bands, you can do a hip thruster from various position - supine (lying face up), kneeling, or standing position.
For reference of resistance, here are the ranges (each band has a range of resistance as the more it stretches, the more resistance is created - and so the more taut the band is from the start, the harder it'll be):
This really depends on your strength level. If you are just starting out doing banded hip thrusts, go for a 0.5" width 41" loop band (all 41" bands have the same length and thickness, as the width is what determines its resistance).
From there, you can move up in weight. Even with a single band, you can alter the resistance by creating more tautness from the starting position.
Note: Due to the width of the gray band, they are very hard to stretch, so it's very unlikely you will use them for hip thrusts. All other sizes are suitable for hip thrusts.
Overall, everything is up to user discretion. Prioritize form over difficulty. You'd rather be doing proper form with zero difficulties than great difficulty with awful form. At least with proper form, you will exercise the muscles you intended to. Most beginners, and even up to the intermediate level gym-goers, will only really need the light band. It provides that extra level of resistance without compromising your form due to difficulty.
Some may choose to do this on a bench, but the floor works just fine as well. Start without a band at first to gain an understanding of the mechanics of the exercise. Understand what it has to feel like and what it looks like, then incorporate the resistance bands.
We will show you different variations of banded hip thrusters a little further below...
If hip thrusts are not done with good form, they will not be effective. It's important to remain mindful during the entirety of the exercise to get the most out of it. Try to avoid these common form mistakes when you do them yourself.
Avoid these two main mistakes, and be mindful during your workout. As long as you understand the mechanics of what you are doing, you will not fail.
Some of these may not appear like your typical hip thrust, but the biomechanics are the same. They maximize glute contraction and incorporate the same elements as the regular bench hip thrust or glute bridge on the floor.
This is the same as the banded hip thrust above, but it is done with through one leg. With that, it is more difficult and will require more focus on your core balance and hip stability. This is a good progression exercise from the standard bilateral hip thrust. So, if you have just one size band, rather than going up in band size, you can try this exercise.
The kneeling banded hip thrust may appear different from the typically banded hip thrust, but the biomechanics are almost the same as is the glute activation. You are able to do it from this vertical position because bands can create tension in any direction. The main difference from a lying hip thrust is that the kneeling hip thruster involves less quad activation. Thus, it is even more of a glute focused movement (although both variations are glute-centric). Moreover, you will likely be able to use a heavier band as you'll have more leverage.
The standing hip thrust is almost like a half squat (the top portion) or a Romanian Deadlift (RDL). The main difference is that the resistance applied isn't pulling you down but rather pulling you back. This change in resistance incorporates more hips than legs, which is the goal when it comes to these exercises. This is why a hip thrust is more effective for the glutes than a squat or RDL for contraction tension. Because basically towards the top of a free weight squat, as you are extending your hips to neutral, there is little to no resistance (again, gravity).
The single-leg variation is always good for those looking for a more challenging workout. It's basically like a single leg RDL but the resistance is coming from behind you so the glutes and hamstrings get more activation as you push through your hips to the standing position. Basically, RDLs are great for stretching tension, and banded hip thrusts (like this single leg variation and the bilateral one above) are great for contraction tension.
The added bonus of doing it single leg rather than two legs is you have more resistance per side AND it's great for building core and hip strength (and thus balance and stability).
The banded hip thrust is meant to primarily target your glutes. While it will incorporate other muscles (Core, Hamstrings, Quads, and Hip Adductors), it will emphasize the gluteal muscles (Gluteus Maximus, Medius, and Minimus).
The different variations alter the muscles worked slightly, but the glutes will always be the main target. For example, the kneeling variation will incorporate less quads, while the single leg variations will involve more adductor and core activation.
We encourage you to try each of the exercises and see for yourself the differences you feel for each one.
While other exercises such as squats, lunges, and RDLs are great for strengthening your glutes too, they don't maximize the contraction in the same way as hip thrusts. They maximize stretching tension. As such, an exercise like hip thrusts greatly complements exercises like squats and lunges.
All in all, the hip thrust is the ultimate horizontal hip dominant glute exercise (the deadlift is the ultimate vertical hip dominant exercise).
Banded hip thrusts aren't the only great exercise for the glutes. Here are other exercises to target your glutes using resistance bands.
It's always good to have exercise variety to hit the glutes from different angles and with different variables. This will provide you with the best possible development of your gluteal muscles.
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